Seattle skyline with Mount Rainier viewed from Kerry Park. (Stephen Plopper, via Unsplash)

The Seattle City Council will have six new members in 2024.  In pre-election polls, voters were focused on public safety, homelessness and housing affordability. The successful candidates emphasized those issues.  The newly elected members were described as “moderates” compared to the present council. ”Moderate” action is not sufficient to address our climate crisis. If current emissions continue, the world will surpass global warming of 1.5-degrees C in only seven years, which scientists say is the tipping point to irretrievable damage to the living beings on our planet. In a global sense, today’s children will be the victims of our failure to act.

Urgent action at all levels of government and by each of us is needed now. Cities contribute 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) emissions in the US. Seattle’s emission reduction goal is fully aligned with climate science, as detailed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Seattle could be a national model for city-level action. However, according to Seattle’s Office of Sustainability & Environment (OSE), Seattle must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030. That requires 10% reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions every year, which is 17 times larger than our current rate. We’re heartened that these new council members acknowledged citizens’ climate concerns during their campaigns.

Rob Saka, the new council member in District 1 said: “The City of Seattle has always been a leader on climate awareness and action. We need both a long-term set of goals to add to Seattle’s strong track record and near-term monitoring and reaction plans to respond to the perils of increased weather volatility, wildfires and warming.”  

Joy Hollingsworth in District 3 said: “To combat the dangerous and damaging impacts of climate change, a coordinated response from all sectors and residents in Seattle is necessary.”  

Maritza Rivera, in District 4, said: “The impacts of climate change are not abstract or far off – they are here. The question now is whether we have the courage to take bold action and prevent truly devastating consequences for our children.”  

Cathy Moore in District 5 said: “Tackling climate change in the Pacific Northwest is paramount to the sustainability of our environment, and protection of our people.”  

The mayor and new city council must call on city departments to outline and implement plans, schedules, and budgets for a 10% cut in transportation and building emissions by the end of 2024, a 30% cut by the end of 2026, and a 50% cut by 2030. They need to pass an update to the Comprehensive Plan in 2024 that addresses the need for housing density and affordability. Our city leaders can also call on all city stakeholders (business, labor, real estate, developers, education, healthcare, finance, and so forth) to develop plans to cut emissions. And, editorial boards should hold all leaders accountable for achieving these goals. 

Climate change will not wait for a future council. We must make climate action a Seattle priority now.

James Little is a member of the Climate and Health Task Force of Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility. Jim Street is a former Seattle city councilmember, and Robin Briggs is Chair of Climate Advocates Hub of Seattle / King County.

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James Little, Jim Street, Robin Briggs (Guest Contributors)

James Little is a member of the Climate and Health Task Force of Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, Jim Street is a former Seattle city councilmember, and Robin Briggs is Chair of Climate Advocates Hub of Seattle / King County.